Salenko’s supple bourrées, lengthy jetés and perfectly placed lines are simply to-die-for.
Another night, another Giselle. The second night cast starred Guest Artist Iana Salenko making her debut with the Royal Ballet in the titular role. Partnering her once more was Australian Principal Steven McRae.
Salenko’s steely technique, small stature and eye for acting making her a likeable Giselle throughout, though she admittedly fails to make anything remarkable of Giselle’s famous mad scene and death. In this she is too poised, too balletic – channelling something too classical, more along the lines of Princess Aroura. She could have benefitted here from more exasperated arms, wider eyes and spontaneous chuckles here and there.
In Act II, however, she is faultless. Here, Salenko is given ample opportunities to display her gorgeous balances en pointe as she floats across the stage as Giselle the Wili, protecting Albrecht from the hands of Myrtha (portrayed by First Soloist Helen Crawford). Her supple bourrées, lengthy jetés and perfectly placed lines are simply to-die-for.
If you read my reviews frequently, you’ve probably guessed by now (if it isn’t quite obvious) that McRae is, by far, my favourite male dancer. As Albrecht he is, once more, astounding, although, if I am being honest and a bit picky, on his entrance I did feel as though I was watching Romeo all over again. This was quickly tossed aside though as he took on the noble-in-disguise air as ‘Loys’. The highlight of all his dancing in this role, for me, are his entrechat six – from the couple he teased in Act I to the 12 consecutive ones he boasted in Act II.
As a pair, Salenko and McRae compliment each other perfectly. They never fail to pull out the comedic moments of a ballet, be it something purely light-hearted like Don Quixote or tragic like Romeo and Juliet. Their jumps always took off and landed at the same time and their balances were practiced and timed to perfection.
In the Act I pas de six Akane Takada (paired with James Hay) is divine – her pointe simply mesmerising. Commendable too was David Donnelly, making his debut in the role alongside Matthew Ball. Meaghan Grace Hinkis and Elizabeth Harrod partnered Donnelly and Ball though Hinkis seemed unable to stay in time with the music during their pas de deux, always a beat ahead of Harrod’s impeccable timing.
As Myrtha, Crawford is less than desirable – carrying the feel of fairy godmother-gone-rogue rather than Queen of the Wilis. In fairness, while Tierney Heap is just an Artist, the lowest rank in the company, her portrayal on opening night set the bar sky high.
Emma Maguire and Yasmine Naghdi tackled the roles of Myrtha’s attendants, Zulme and Moyna. Both prickly and light, they successfully kept me on the edge of my seat during their short solo moments in Act II. I am particularly a fan of Naghdi’s – whose Juliet was simply otherworldly – and wish to see her promoted and given more principal roles next season.
Salenko and McRae will perform the roles once more of March 19. Giselle will continue to run until 16 April. For tickets and further details please visit the website of the Royal Opera House.